Middle-class seniors living solid, suburban lifestyles
The flight to the suburbs in the 1950s and 1960s attracted many World War II veterans with young families. Today, these Aging in Place seniors are ready to retire but still happy in their modest homes scattered across the country near metros and mid-sized cities. More than four- fifths of household heads are over 65 years old, and two-thirds are already retired. With their children out of the house, this mix of empty-nesting couples and widowed individuals live comfortably on mid-scale incomes and assets from a lifetime of working at professional and technical jobs.
Aging in Place enjoy quiet, unassuming lifestyles. They spend most of their time around their homes reading, gardening and watching their favorite game shows on TV. They find most aerobic exercise too strenuous, preferring to go fishing or power boating. They like dining out and go to casual restaurants like Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday. They don’t frequent many cultural activities other than the occasional play or classical concert. When socializing, they attend activities sponsored by their religious group or veterans’ club.
As shoppers, Aging in Place have traditional tastes. They’re brand-loyal when it comes to clothes and like to shop at stores like Sears and Kohl’s. In their car-intensive communities, they still like smooth-cruising vehicles that can handle the interstates - brands like Cadillac and Lincoln. Aging in Place also are a strong market for books, garden supplies and TV sets. Given their extended families of children and grandchildren, these folks send a lot of cards and gifts and are on a first-name basis with the clerks at the local Hallmark Store.
Aging in Place are fans of traditional media, including print, TV and radio. They read a daily newspaper and like to subscribe to magazines that cover travel, culture and home arts. Although they no longer represent a strong drive-time radio audience, they still tune in to stations that play oldies, classical music and adult contemporary programming. Mostly, though, these households are TV fans. Most like to watch movies, get DIY ideas from how-to programs and test their intellectual mettle with game shows. Few understand all the excitement about the Internet. While many can send email, these older newbies won’t be downloading songs or buying digital books anytime soon.
Not surprisingly, these Americans describe themselves as social conservatives. They care about their faith and go to religious services each week. Although they’re generally happy with their standard of living, they still worry about threats to their neighborhoods. They tend to vote Republican, but they’re more active in community organizations than political groups. These are the people who belong to church and synagogue clubs, attend union meetings and support the community service projects of veterans’ organizations.
One of the older lifestyle segments, eight of ten households in Aging in Place contain people over the age of 65. Nearly two-thirds have already retired and the rest are on the cusp of leaving the workforce. About two-thirds contain married couples with grown children no longer living at home, while the rest are widows and widowers. Predominantly white and educated, many householders have worked their way up from humble origins to earn college degrees; nearly half have at least one household member with a bachelor’s or graduate degree. The largest share of those still in the workforce hold jobs in professional and technical occupations.
Scattered throughout the country, the Aging in Place tend to live in older suburban neighborhoods near metros and second-tier cities. Many moved to their single-family homes as part of the flight to suburbia during the 1950s and 1960. Today, their modest houses are valued at $190,000 - slightly below average - and are showing signs of wear. However, it’s difficult to find more stable communities: fully half of all households have lived at the same residence for more than 25 years. While many Americans who’ve watched their children grow up and leave home soon make their own transition to a retirement community, these seniors have stayed put.
Aging in Place typically lead quiet lives of leisure. They like to putter around the house reading books, gardening, doing needlework and woodworking. They enjoy few cultural activities, but they do like going to classical concerts, antique shows and the theater. For a splurge, they head to a casino or restaurant like Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel and Ruby Tuesday. These Americans have the time and wherewithal to travel, often taking cruises - especially to Alaska and Europe - and domestic trips by car, bus and RV. With most on fixed incomes, these travelers stay at inexpensive hotel chains like Motel 6, Quality Inn and Comfort Inn.
Aging in Place tend to be conservative consumers. When it comes to fashion, they stick with tried-and-true brands. They patronize mid-market stores such as Meijer, Kohl’s and Sears but also make frequent catalog purchases of books, gardening items and music. While they like to buy a new car every couple of years - sedans and luxury models like Cadillacs, Buicks and Lincolns are favorites - they’re more reticent about consumer electronics.
These brand-loyal consumers make a strong market for traditional media. They’re heavy readers of newspapers, turning first to the news, science, outdoor and travel sections. TV remains their chief form of entertainment, and this segment loves to watch game shows, history programs, news and how-to instruction shows. Their favorite cable channels include CNN, GSN, Hallmark Channel and TCN. These Americans are modest readers of most magazines, but they do enjoy periodicals that cover popular culture (Reader’s Digest, Parade), home arts (Family Circle, Martha Stewart Living) and travel (National Geographic, Sunset). While most are no longer listening to the radio on commutes to work, they still tune in news and talk, golden oldies, classical music and adult contemporary programming.
Aging in Place tend to find advertising intrusive, but they still respond to marketing messages that acknowledge their conservative streak. They’re receptive to messages that promote performance, safety and experience. Although financial surveys show that they’re savings- oriented, they can be enticed to spend money - especially on their kids and grandkids.
When it comes to the values that shape their lives, Aging in Place are strictly traditionalists. They tended to marry young, had children early and now describe themselves as politically conservative and religious. They tell researchers that they’re fervent about their faith and believe in the importance of attending religious services. Risk-averse, they worry about threats to their neighborhoods. They support recycling and tougher laws to reduce crime and violence.
But Aging in Place are not parochial households, however. Most are members of the G.I. Generation who are open-minded about people from other cultures and active in their own communities. Many serve on the boards of their church, synagogue, union or veterans’ club. Politically, they’re right-of-center and have a greater tendency to belong to the Republican Party. However, their charity seems to cross political boundaries, and they donate to a wide variety of groups - from religious and health organizations to public television and political groups.
At home, Aging in Place cultivate a healthy lifestyle, choosing low-fat and low-calorie foods at the dinner table. They try to eat a lot of fiber, avoid spicy foods and look for easy-to-prepare meals. They make a conscientious attempt to get regular check-ups and follow their doctors’ orders. They frequently take preventive medicine and don’t mind paying extra for drugs not covered by Medicare or their private insurer. They say that, given all their effort, they rarely get sick. Given their advancing years, these Americans are happy now and say they try not to worry about the future.
Aging in Place are fiscal conservatives. Thanks to a mix of income-producing assets, they enjoy cushy lifestyles. Most have a substantial nest egg, but these over 65-year-olds tend to be wary investors. They acquire savings bonds, CDs and tax-sheltered annuities, rather than stocks and mutual funds. They buy a number of insurance products, especially whole-life and medical coverage, for high-balance protection, and they package everything into umbrella policies to protect their assets.
Nevertheless, these active retirees are a strong target for many financial services. They carry a wide range of credit cards - standard and prestige plastic as well as those for department stores and gas stations - and they pay off their balances each month. With many having paid off their mortgages, they now take out home equity and improvement loans to maintain their aging houses. While the financial industry may be promoting the ease of online banking and investing, these Americans still prefer paying their bills with checks and buying insurance from agents.
This is a mixed audience for the Internet. Some Aging in Place concede that the Internet mostly leaves them baffled, and they do not often go online. On the other hand, an increasing number go online to make travel arrangements, check out recipes and explore their genealogy, with visits to Websites such as hotels.com, cooks.com, and ancestry.com. The highest concentration still accesses the Internet using dial-up connections from their home desktop computers. Many have mastered email and get the day’s headlines and sports scores from sites such as abc.com, mlb.com and pgatour.com. However, most are not adept at downloading music and videos. Shopping online is definitely outside their comfort zone.